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Title: Theorising the academic viva in Norwegian higher education
Author: Dobson, Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 5073
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This dissertation argues that the academic viva in higher education is a social practice organised around a limited number of re-occurring language games. Also, central to this argument is the role of examiner judgments and constructs, along with the understanding of the viva and accompanying examiner meetings as narratives that not only possess plots, beginnings, middles and ends, but are multiaccented, multi-directional and multi-punctual. These arguments are investigated in three research questions, and a theory of the academic viva in higher education is proposed in the final chapter. The first research question asks: Why study the viva? This question is answered by looking at the genealogy of the viva through history, its under-theorisation in research and its significance for existential, social and integrative experiences. Research on the academic viva, with some notable exceptions has been limited to questionnaires sent to participants, interviews and the analysis of policy documents in different higher education institutions. This dissertation breaks new ground because it is based upon the filming of the viva and accompanying examiner meetings before (setting preliminary grade) and after the viva (setting final grade). Norwegian higher education is chosen as a case study and in particular the post-graduate Master in Education viva. The data is scrutinised with the tools of conversation analysis, making it possible to answer the second research question: How is the viva 'talked into being'? Assessment theory has been concerned with ascertaining the reliability, generalis ability, transparency, justice and accountability of particular instances and forms of assessment. Determining the validity of a form of assessment has been considered of secondary importance. This dissertation argues that the validity component should not be neglected. As a consequence the third research question is: What would a validity argument look like for the viva? To answer this question, the filmed post-graduate data is re-visited, along with additional instances of the viva at the under-graduate level in the disciplines of Education and Travel and Tourism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available